When you begin your language learning journey, I have one piece of advice for you: Ignore Grammar. (I can hear all the English teachers gasping for air.)
Now, that we got that out of the way let me explain
When you are learning a language, grammar inhibits your communication, your ability to speak. And communication, speaking, is the point of language and the way you learn a language.
You need communication, not grammar if your goals are:
- Communicate with people in another language
- Move through the culture
- Make friends
- Ease the travel experience
Is grammar necessary to learn a language?
You do not need to learn grammar when you start your language learning journey. In fact, learning grammar at the beginning can be a huge barrier to success, and here’s why.
Grammar, first of all, is arbitrary. That is why it is so difficult to learn. It’s literally made up. There is no intrinsic reason for it. You can’t figure it out, someone has to tell you how it works.
Grammar does, however, make a language more precise and helps avoid confusion.
For example, if you are going to the beach and your friend is going to the club, “I come with you” is very different than, “You come with me.”
This illustrates two grammar points, one is word order and the other is the difference in the pronoun ‘I’ and the object pronoun ‘me’.
Communication, on the other hand, is about, well … communication. It is how we understanding each other.
Communication does not depend on grammar it is based on mutual understanding. It’s also how you pick up grammar.
Where to spend your time learning a language
Language learning is hard and messy, why make it harder than it needs to be?
Spend your time learning the words that you will use most often and words that you can use in many situations.
Here’s how it works.
If your foreign friend says to you in English, “I go store”, you totally understand what he or she is saying.
Maybe you say back to them, “if you are going to the store, I will come too.”
So, now they just heard you speak with the correct grammar. That’s is the best way to learn a language – through speaking and listening.
So would you encourage your grammar-less foreign friends to spend their time learning what a helping verb is and how to use it? Or would it be better for them to spend their time learning more vocabulary to be able to speak more and acquire the language?
I hope you chose to speak more because that is the best way to learn a language.
Order the damn fish
So, what does this look like from your perspective of learning a language?
Imagine you are in Italy at a restaurant and you want to say “I want the fish” in Italian.
Is it, Voglio il pesce, Voglio al pesce, Voglio gli pesce, Voglio l’pesce, or Voglio I pesce?
Who cares, pick one and order the fish! Even Google Translate doesn’t care. 🙂
The waiter will probably repeat it back to you correctly “il pesce” or your Italian friends will correct you.
This is so much better than not saying anything at all because you were afraid of not saying it correctly. And a much easier way to learn than memorizing a chart and trying to recall which article to use.
Grammar does have its place
While eliminating grammar is part of the 5-part formula to learning any language, I’m not saying that grammar is useless or should not be learned.
In fact, if you continue to speak your new language, grammar will eventually find its way in. In fact, you may even find, your English improves, as well.
Cassandra Scott from Edinburgh told the BBC:
“Learning two foreign languages also did wonders for my English. It gave me a new perspective on my own language and also gave me extra practice in identifying parts of speech, and later on, analyzing literature.”
What I’m saying is that if you want to be understood you don’t need grammar. And when start your language learning journey, learning grammar right away is more of a hindrance than a help.
Start speaking right away. That’s how you learn a language. The grammar will eventually come.